OrganizationProcessProduct ManagementSaeed

Venn and the Art of Product Management

By Saeed Khan

NOTE: A shorter version of this article was originally posted on LinkedIn.

NOTE: The post title was clearly inspired by the title of this book. Sorry, couldn’t resist :-), but it should also be noted that some of the topics of discussion in the book should be of interest to modern Product Managers.

NOTE: I was inspired to write this post by this article. The author even listed one of my own Venn diagrams in his list!! 🙂

Now, with all that behind us, on with the show!!!

They tell you that:

Source: Martin Eriksson

You may WANT to be there…But in reality, in most cases:

Quite often:

And in some unfortunate cases:

In some companies, possibly:

BTW, I’m not quite sure:

Towards a more accurate illustration of Product Management

The problem with Martin’s diagram is that it over-emphasizes UX and Technology and is missing some other key items that are critical aspects of Product Management. In my opinion, the over-emphasis of UX/Tech skews people’s perception of what PM is  and how to hire, staff and manage it. It’s like having a diagram that describes sales as a mixture of phone calls, meetings and business. Sure, it’s kind of true, but not an accurate representation of it.

So, what’s a better way to describe Product Management?

Another Venn diagram describing Product Management can be found here. The diagram looks something like this:

This is a bit better. UX and Technology are combined (thus reducing their dominance in the mix),  Business is still there, but the empty spot is occupied by Customer. i.e. a blend of Customer focus, Business focus and UX+Tech focus. That seems to be an improvement, but to me, there’s still something missing.

Let’s start with the end

The goal of Product Management is product success.

Success is defined by the business objectives of your product. Success could be initial customer adoption, it could be growth, revenue, profit, market share, or something else.  Remember, business strategy drives product strategy and business objectives drive product objectives. i.e. the product aligns to the needs of the business.

To achieve product success, you need to align the following:

  • Business Objectives
    • goals and strategy to be met and followed by the product
  • Market Needs
    • market needs to fulfill or exploit, competitive threats to address etc. Includes customer needs/requirements as well.
  • Product Capability
    • how well the product addresses the market needs
  • Organizational Effectiveness
    • how well the company can market, sell, support, and deliver the value of the product to the market

All of these fall under the responsibility of Product Management. i.e. to understand business objectives and market needs and create a product that addresses those needs and then work with internal (and external) stakeholders and teams to bring the product to market, sell it, support it etc. in the best ways possible to achieve the business objectives.  Whew!! That’s a bit of a run-on sentence, but it does get the point across (I hope).

Now, if you remove any one of those 4 areas from the equation, can you achieve product success? The answer is “No”. Is there anything significant that needs to be added to the mix? I can’t think of any. So, as a Product Manager,  in an ideal world, to achieve product success in the most effective ways possible:

To me, at least, this better represents what we do as PMs. Product Management is a CROSS-FUNCTIONAL LEADERSHIP role whose job it is to achieve PRODUCT SUCCESS in line with BUSINESS OBJECTIVES.

Now I say “You want to be here” (in the diagram) because you probably aren’t there today. A lot of the PMs I’ve spoken to over the years have very little exposure to the business side of the house, and have a rather small role in organizational effectiveness.

This diagram is intended to make crystal clear the wide breadth of focus required for successful product management  (and thus successful products). It’s more complete, balanced and representative of what is really needed as compared to the original Venn diagram.

What do you think? Does this work for you? Is this a better description (and diagram) of what Product Management is about?

Saeed

About the Author

Saeed Khan is a founder and Managing Editor of On Product Management, and has worked for the last 20 years in high-technology companies building and managing market leading products. He also speaks regularly at events on the topic of product management and product leadership. You can contact him via Twitter @saeedwkhan or via the Contact Us page on this blog.

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